Deakin Uni research on healthy food prices in large supermarkets

The prices of 28 widely consumed health foods were tracked in major Australian supermarkets for three years – with surprising results.

Prices for lettuce and broccoli have risen, but there are plenty of healthy foods that Australians usually eat that have remained the same or cheaper than three years ago, the study found.

Researchers at Deakin University tracked Coles and Woolworths prices for 28 health staples that Australians typically consume between 2020 and 2022.

The study found that some foods saw price increases dramatically: Broccoli rose 101%, iceberg lettuce 100%, tomatoes 43% and olive oil 33%.

However, there was no overall price change for bananas, free-range eggs, bottled water, canned tuna, red onions, sweet corn and carrots.

And some staples, like oranges, apples, and a 400-gram jar of Edgell bean mix, were actually cheaper in 2022 compared to 2020.

Lead researcher Christina Zorbas of the Deakin Health Transformation Institute said the data showed that fruit prices weren’t affected as much as vegetable prices.

“It shows that we have good local production and good supply chains,” she said.

“But it is quite interesting to note that there is a golden mean, when food prices have increased by 5-10%.

“Everywhere, all of our staples like dairy, our meat and our carbohydrates like our pasta and our bread are growing, even a little.

“It adds to every weekly store in the supermarket. I think people really feel it. The data just reflects that.”

More broadly, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the recent consumer price index showed that fruits and vegetables have risen in price by almost 7%, while takeaway goods have risen in price by less than 1%, Dr. Zorbas said.

“That’s why we focus on the healthy stuff, because unhealthy foods tend to have a more stable price,” she said.

“It’s interesting and just shows that we need to do a lot more to keep healthy food prices stable as well.”

The prices of 28 healthy foods were tracked weekly at two large supermarkets as part of a larger study of the relationship between food availability and diet.

Dr. Zorbas said the cost of healthy food was probably the number one reason people were blamed for not following a healthy diet.

“This is the biggest barrier because people say healthy eating is too expensive and less healthy options are cheaper,” she said.

“So we challenged ourselves to understand how much of that is quantifiable and how much is perhaps public opinion about price.”

She said the research team sought to fill “a lot of gaps” in food price research at the national level.

“In fact, the price of food is one of the most important determinants of health. If you can’t afford a healthy diet, then you’re at greater risk for many diseases, weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and everything else,” she said.

“There is much more data, and we hope to report it more frequently and reliably in the future.”

Originally published as The study shows how healthy food prices have fluctuated in large supermarkets.